Cosy up and settle in for the long haul with The Hateful Eight, a mystery Western from director Quentin Tarantino.
The Hateful Eight is the eighth movie from Tarantino (both volumes of Kill Bill count as one, apparently) and it's been a long time coming; for a while, it appeared as though the film wouldn't get made after its original script was leaked online for all to see. However, after some plot reworking, the decision to go ahead with the movie was made and thank god it was - because it is awesome.
Set in the years following the American Civil War, the movie sees a group of travellers on their way to a town called Red Rock seek refuge inside a cosy stagecoach stopover named Minnie's Haberdashery as a fierce Wyoming winter blizzard sets in. Kurt Russell plays a bounty hunter named John Ruth who intends to cash in by transporting a famed outlaw - Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) - to Red Rock where she can be hung for her crimes.
Along the way, Ruth meets Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), another bounty hunter and Civil War veteran, and together they arrive at Minnie's Haberdashery to find all manner of nefarious characters taking shelter from the storm, including Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman tasked with executing Daisy, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the new Sheriff of Red Rock and Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), a lonely traveller who doesn't say all that much.
The Hateful Eight feels like much more that just a film; even though I'm unlucky enough to live in city where they simply aren't showing it in its intended 70mm format (complete with intermission), every aspect of how the film is presented feels like an experience to savour. From the prolonged opening overture to the super widescreen aspect ratio and the individual title cards marking the start of each separate 'chapter', this is an ode to classic spaghetti Westerns and Agatha Christie novels all rolled into one homage-ridden bundle of blood, gore and shifty eyes. It has gunslingers, mystery, suspense and even political undertones that befit the setting.
It's certainly one of Tarantino's most ambitious and gleefully self-indulgent films to date; you get the sense that we're witnessing a director really let loose as he mixes a raft of regular collaborators (Tim Roth, Bruce Dern and Walton Goggins) with a bristling passion for all things Western. This is both a good thing, and a bad thing.
On the one hand, you have a script that is written with the utmost care and love for the setting. It's also a script that is moulded to fit the actors, particularly Samuel L. Jackson. The way that Jackson's character walks and talks is peak Tarantino and is another excellent notch on their long list of joint works. Jennifer Jason Leigh is delightfully batshit crazy too - her Oscar nomination a fitting reward.
On the top of that you have some simply spellbinding direction, cinematography and editing work that gorgeously frame everything from the stark Wyoming wilderness to the intricate interior of Minnie's Haberdashery. The cherry on top is Ennio Morricone's awesome score that both borrows from his old work (tracks are drawn from his score on John Carpenter's The Thing) and new original compositions.
But, this isn't a film without issue. As gorgeous as it is to look at, The Hateful Eight does spend a lot of its time (particularly the first half) coasting along at a snail's pace. Now I know I just said it was an experience to savour, but I think even the most ardent Tarantino fan would argue that, at 187 minutes, the runtime of The Hateful Eight crosses over into undisciplined excess. I know it was designed to be screened with an intermission at the midway point, but unfortunately that part of the experience didn't reach my local multiplex.
Furthermore, a significant section of the film darts backward to an earlier part of the narrative to recount how events got to where they are now from a certain character's point of view. This is a Tarantino staple, but it's not executed with as much finesse here as in some of his earlier work.
And yet, for every gripe I can conjure there are five or six brilliant moments that wash away their significance. Filled with Tarantino's distinctive style of explosive action, excruciating violence and flowery vocabularies, The Hateful Eight is destined to please fans and rate amongst some of his most cherished works in years to come. Even in the its slower moments, The Hateful Eight is an example of an auteur in his element, interweaving an appreciation of classic filmmaking with superb dialogue, memorable characters and the shockingly inventive conflicts that they share.
The Verdict: 8.5/10
The Hateful Eight is the kind of film that simply doesn't get made nowadays; it's long, slow, brutal and bubbling with ambition and fondness for days gone by. It isn't for everyone, but the thrilling direction and wonderfully rich setting will leave fans brimming with joy.
The Hateful Eight is in cinemas across Australia now.